I don’t want to alarm anyone…but there are signs that the indications of life in the Oilers PP are not the S% induced mirage to which we’ve become accustomed over the past five years. As I mentioned earlier this year, the Oilers have been horrific at generating shots at 5v4 in the recent past, finishing thirtieth in this stat in each of the past four years. From a low of 43.8 5v4 S/60 in 2007-08 to a high of 49.3 5v4 S/60 in 2009-10, they’ve just been mind numbingly horrifically bad.
They’ve had spurts of competence goalwise, times when pucks were going in and people got optimistic but the shot needle hasn’t really moved over four years. That’s a real problem because of the two things that make up goals (shots and shooting percentage), shots is the repeatable one. Shooting percentage belongs to the gods and it waxes and wanes with their whims.
The increase from an average of 47 5v4 S/60 to 55.5 5v4 S/60 is actually a pretty significant increase. The Oilers will likely spend somewhere between 7.5 and 8.5 hours on the PP this year. That’s an extra 56 to 64 shots in total. If you assume that the Oilers are a 12% true talent shooting percentage on the PP, you move the needle in terms of expected 5v4 GF from 45 to 53. That’s a pretty big gain to make on the PP, where the difference between teams is actually pretty small – if you factored ice time out, the GF/60 rates at 5v4 last year 8th best team at 5v4 goal scoring score 12 more goals than the 28th best team. It’s tough to really kill yourself or make your season there, except on the margins.
The Oilers have been flirting with those margins for the past four years though, basically relying on shooting percentage to keep them from being completely useless. While the present 5v4 S% is unlikely to last – it’s at 15.2% against a league average of around 11.7%, the Oilers aren’t quite as naked as they once were in terms of making some use out of the 5v4 minutes. If you’re looking for signs that the Titanic is finally starting to change its course, this number is a pretty decent one to rely on.
(Unrelated: I’m hearing a lot from Leafs fans about Toronto’s hot start and, in particular, the work done by Joffrey Lupul. The Leafs currently lead the NHL with a 20.2% 5v4 S%. While they might think that this is normal, having been exposed to the tender mercies of Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala over the past five years, their 22nd in the league 51 5v4 S/60 suggests that a hard rain is going to fall. Thank goodness.)